Tuesday 20 August 2019

'We are seriously concerned' - FIFA and UEFA hit back at Minister Shane Ross over FAI criticism

Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

FIFA and UEFA have written to the FAI to express 'serious concerns' over Minister Shane Ross' call for FAI President Donal Conway to withdraw his nomination for re-election.

In a strongly-worded letter to Conway and the FAI, Minister Ross hit out at the incumbent president's re-election bid, with no other candidates emerging to challenge Conway.

'I must ask you to withdraw your nomination for re-election at the upcoming AGM to allow for new leadership with credible reform credentials, in the best interests of football," Minister Ross wrote.

In a statement, the FAI say they have received a joint-communique from FIFA and UEFA on the recent comments from the minister.

In the statement from the governing bodies, they pointed to the rules regarding third-party interference in matters concerning football associations, issuing a reminder that sanctions could apply if an association 'fails to meet these obligations', including possible suspension from competition.

"FIFA and UEFA are seriously concerned regarding the aforementioned statement from the Minister for Sport," the governing bodies said.

"In this context, we draw your attention to art. 14 par. 1 let. i), 14 par. 3 and art. 19 of the FIFA Statutes as well as to art. 7bis par. 2 and art. 9 par. 1bis let. d of the UEFA Statutes, which oblige all member associations, including the FAI, to manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from any third party.

"Failure to meet these obligations may lead to sanctions as provided for in the FIFA Statutes and UEFA Statutes respectively, including a possible suspension, even if the third party influence was not the fault of the member association concerned.

"In this context, we kindly request that you communicate the foregoing to the relevant authorities and keep us closely informed on further developments regarding the matter at hand. We thank you for taking note of the above."

Earlier this week it was announced that Conway has been nominated unopposed by Football Association of Ireland AGM members to continue in the role of president and that Noel Fitzroy had also been proposed and seconded to continue in his role of vice president. Fitzroy will, however, face competition from Gerry McAnaney and Paul Cooke.

Although the entire FAI Board said they would step down at the AGM on July 27th, the recently published governance report recommends that a maximum of two current board members should stay in situ for a further 12 months to help with the transition to a new board set-up. An EGM to be held this Saturday will consider and vote on a number of reforms recommended by the governance review, followed by the AGM on July 27.

In his letter Mr Ross wrote that the Conway’s effective re-election runs contrary to what he had previously indicated.

"In your letter of 16 April you stated explicitly that at the AGM in July, the Board of the FAI would step down to allow for a new Board to be constituted in the best interests of football. At a subsequent meeting with Minister of State Griffin and me in Leinster House on 22 May, you reiterated the Board's commitment to stand down at the AGM," he writes.

"That was the only prudent course of action in the circumstances. Contrary to this commitment, you have now been effectively re-elected as President of the FAI - you have been, somewhat unexpectedly, unopposed for this position. This was a reversal of your promise to bring reform to the FAI under a new leadership.

"Together with your decision to appoint former FAI employee and loyalist, Noel Mooney to the post of General Manager, this development means that the new regime has a very old look about it."

Ross also told Conway that it "beggars belief" that a proposal to reduce the quorum of the FAI board from six members to two is being considered by FAI members given it was not in the governance review recommendations.

"It is difficult to understand how a board of 12 could have a quorum of just two members. I believe Sport Ireland have sought clarification around this point and I would appreciate it if you would also explain to me why this amendment has been proposed and how it is in line with good governance principles to apply a quorum of just two board members," Mr Ross adds.

In a statement responding to Minister Ross, the FAI acknowledged but did not directly respond to Mr Ross's call for Conway to withdraw his nomination for re-election as president. It said that the new president would not chair the interim board and that the board would consider the Minister's letter "in full at its next meeting".

"The FAI notes the Minister’s ongoing interest in and concern for the game of Association Football and shares the Minister’s desire to improve governance all across the Association, " the statement said.

"The Board and Executive remain in regular contact with Sport Ireland and have met with them on a number of occasions, as recently as today and last Friday."

Regarding the minister's remarks on the quorum of two members, they said that 'the proposed constitutional change regarding the quorum for the Board states that it shall be two members of the Board of Management or such other number as may be specified in the Rules. The rule book states that the quorum is 6. Therefore, the quorum is 6.'

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